Success translates beyond sales goals.

Take a look at the goals and objectives you’ve set for your team. Have you focused your team on being No. 1? Or do you encourage them to do the best they can, regardless of the final ranking? There is a difference between winning and excellence—and I think God wants you to pay a lot less attention to your competition as you set your team goals.

WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS?

Inherent in trying to be No. 1 or the market leader is the fact that doing so requires everyone else to come in second (or worse). There’s only one first place. If being first is your goal, you’re asking for everyone else to lose.

On the other hand, excellence is a position that can be shared by many. If you strive for excellence, you can reach your goal regardless of how your competitors perform. If excellence is your objective, everyone wins when you cross the finish line.

First place is all about “me,” an internally focused benefit. Pushing your team to be the market leader doesn’t necessarily translate into a benefit for your customer. The fact that you sold more widgets than anyone else could mean that you lowered quality and flooded the marketplace with low-priced junk.

In contrast, excellence is all about the customer. The benefit is externally directed. If your team goals are to provide superb quality and unmatched value for the price, everyone wins when you succeed.

STRIVE FOR PERSONAL EXCELLENCE

Paul writes, “Pay attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (Galatians 6:4-5).

The simple truth is that you can’t control your competitors’ performance. Using their activity as a barometer for your own leads to disappointment. Hold your team accountable, but let the standard be something they can control—personal or team excellence.

In the parable of the demanding owner who gave his servants various amounts of money to invest, Jesus said the man who turned in the greatest profit was highly praised. But he also praised the second servant for working to the best of his ability. If winning were the goal, the second servant would not have heard his master say, “Well done.”

One of the best examples of someone who paid attention to his own performance is Nehemiah. His dedication to rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem is exemplary. Nehemiah didn’t blindly ignore the bad publicity his project was receiving, but neither did he let it change his plans. He focused on finishing the project to the best of his ability.

When you watch and react to your competition’s every move, you’re allowing them to set the agenda for your team. No matter how well your team does, their performance will be judged by how it compares to what someone else has done.

Wanting to be first is human nature, and it’s often counter to the approach God wants you to have. Managers who set their sights on being No. 1 will struggle with the words of Jesus when He suggests that the first will be last. Even with the best of intentions, the biblical mandate to celebrate the success of others is difficult (or impossible) if your goal is to see them lose at your expense.

There’s nothing wrong with success. God wants to give you the desires of your heart. As a manager, you may need to rethink your definition of what it means for your team to win.

—Jim Seybert

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